About Me

John Fahy is the Professor of Marketing in the University of Limerick and Adjunct Professor of Marketing at the University of Adelaide. He is an award winning author and speaker on marketing issues around the world.

Get Updates via Email

Enter your email address:

Connect with Me

Bacome a Facebook Fan Follow me on Twitter Subscribe to RSS Connect on LinkedIn

Student Centre



Yesterday, the Irish international soccer team kicked off their European Championship adventure with a match against Croatia. Despite qualifying for the finals, the team has shipped a lot of criticism. Under the guidance of Italian manager Giovanni Trappattoni, they eschew fancy, skilful football for a pragmatic approach that emphasises organisation, discipline and effort.



Today’s fast paced, information-rich world is a demanding and competitive environment as well. Work is increasingly mentally tough, requiring the ability to process large amounts of information quickly and to come up with creative and innovative solutions. So should we recruit talented people or hard workers? And more importantly how should we manage them over time?


To this end it is worth revisiting a classic piece of research on children which was published by Carol Dweck over 10 years ago. She took several hundred New York schoolchildren and gave them a test. Afterwards she praised half for effort (‘you must have worked really hard’) and the other half for intelligence (‘you must be smart at this’). Then she offered the children a choice of two further tests – one at the same level as the first and another more difficult. The results were fascinating. Of those praised for effort, 90 percent chose the harder test and the numbers were reversed in the case of those praised for intelligence. Dweck’s conclusions were that the intelligence group were scared of failure while the effort group were keen to learn from their mistakes. This conclusion was reinforced when the pupils were offered the choice of looking at the test papers of those who had done better or worse than them. Almost all the intelligence group chose to boost their self-esteem by looking at the work of those below them, while most of the effort group examined better test papers to understand their mistakes. In subsequent tests, the effort pupils raised their average scores by 30 per cent, while the intelligence group average dropped by 20 per cent.


The implications are obvious. Whether you are working with children or knowledge workers (and sometimes the differences are not all that clear!!) it is much better to focus on effort than on outcomes. You want your employees to be challenged by complex problems and to be keen to put the effort into coming up with solutions. Moreover, you do not want them to be afraid of failure because discontinuous innovations almost inevitably have high failure rates. These have to be tolerated to ultimately get the results that you want.


Related Articles



PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>
« What Not To Include on Your Resume! | Main | Is the Internet Changing Your Brain? »